Netflix outdid themselves last month. They shipped me 25 discs, of
which one was a replacement disc for one that didn't arrive, for a net
of 24 discs for the month and a net cost per rental of $0.75. The disc
I reported as lost actually did arrive. It came from Flushing, NY, and
took 12 days to get here. Other than that, the USPS service was also
exemplary. They got every disc to and from the Greensboro Netflix
center in one day, and the discs that Netflix sent from farther away
arrived in only two days.
I see that illegal aliens plan to demonstrate and strike en masse
today, which would seem to be an ideal opportunity. INS, with the
assistance of local and state police forces and the National Guard,
should round them up, bus them to the Mexican border, and expel them.
All of them.
Not that I have anything against Mexicans in particular. I'm sure that
most illegal Mexican aliens are nice people, willing to work, and
looking only for an opportunity. But the simple fact is that we can't
afford them. They cost us more, much more, than they contribute to the
economy. Every illegal alien that crosses the Rio Grande ends up
costing US taxpayers thousands of dollars a year, every year. For every
dollar an illegal immigrant contributes to the economy, he costs US
taxpayers two or three dollars. We simply can't afford these subsidies
to illegal aliens.
We don't need more poor, unskilled people in this country. We have more than enough of our own already.
The news reports all say that yesterday's strike by illegal aliens
was very successful. If you believe the reports, the country was just
about shut down. That's not what I saw, nor what any of my
correspondents saw. Jerry Pournelle, for example, had this to say:
Today is supposed to have a demonstration of how awful life will be if all the illegal aliens take off.
In Southern California, at least, this has been a good day: the
freeways were clear, the traffic was low, people were driving
rationally. It took us well under 3 hours to get home from San Diego,
and the radio reports tell us of freeways the way they were in the
1980's. The Macdonalds in El Toro may have been understaffed, but not
I could live this way for a long time. The freeways were not designed
to accommodate millions of illegal aliens, just as our hospital system
was not designed for that kind of non-paying traffic.
Could they continue this rally for the rest of the summer?
What the illegal aliens hoped to demonstrate was that we couldn't live
without them. What they in fact demonstrated is that we'd be better off
The RIAA, MPAA, and network copyright pigs should learn a lesson from
Napoleon's dinner plates. When Napoleon wanted to impress his guests,
he served dinner on gold plates. When Napoleon really
wanted to impress his guests, he served them dinner on aluminum plates.
Back then, aluminum was much more costly than gold.
But things have changed, and aluminum is now commonplace and
inexpensive. The same drop in value applies to the recorded music and
video that the RIAA, MPAA, and television networks are still trying to
hawk at pre-Internet prices. In olden days, music and video were
rare commodities, tightly controlled by record companies, studios, and
television networks. If you wanted to listen to music or watch a video
program, you did it on their terms.
Audio tape recorders were the first crack in the dam, allowing people
to record music off the air, make compilation tapes from their album
collections, and otherwise have it their way. VCRs pretty much
destroyed any control that networks had over television viewing,
allowing people to time-shift, zap commercials, trade programs with
friends, and so on. Then along came the Internet and the web, Napster,
MP3s, bittorrent, CD burners, TiVo, PCs with PVR functions, DVDshrink,
DVD burners, Netflix, cheap DVD recorders, and on and on.
The business models of the RIAA, MPAA, and television networks were
utterly and irrevocably destroyed almost overnight. They're left
wondering what happened, and their only responses have been to demand
Draconian, unenforceable laws from their bought-and-paid for
legislators and to use those vicious new laws to sue their customers
for ridiculously large sums.
The copyright pigs are living in a dream world. Their businesses are no
longer viable, as becomes more evident every day. They are dinosaurs,
and extinction nears.
I'm still heads-down writing on the new computer book. Well, that and
talking to vendors, trying to sweet-talk them out of samples. Pretty
soon, Barbara will lose her kitchen table for the duration, as we build
a bunch of new systems for the book.
going to bag Evolution. When I first looked at Evolution several years
ago, I quickly decided not to use it because it was feature-poor and
crash-prone. The most recent version has many more features, but it
still crashes regularly for no apparent reason. I haven't lost any mail
yet, but I'm afraid I will if I continue to use Evolution. Perhaps I
should just set things up to use IMAP on the mail server.
|Please give a moment's thought today to Alison Krause,
Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder. Thirty-six
years ago today at Kent State University, the Ohio National Guard
murdered those four students and wounded nine others. Two of those dead
were merely spectators at the anti-war protest that occurred that day.
The other two were minding their own business on their way to classes.
No students were armed. No Guardsmen had been injured, nor were they in
any danger. The Guardsmen fired randomly for 13 seconds--13
seconds--into a group of unarmed civilians, killing students as much as
700 feet away. No one has ever been brought to justice for this
massacre, nor even suffered administrative discipline.
Every year on this day I observe 13 seconds of silence to
remember what happened that day, and to remind myself that no
government can ever be trusted with the freedom of its citizens,
or indeed their very lives.
10:03 - Howard Kaikow posted a link to this article over on the HardwareGuys.com Forums.
I'd read the article when it was originally posted five years ago, but
it's worth reading again. The article discusses the phenomenon of
aliteracy, those who can read but don't.
Ultimately, there's little difference between an illiterate person and
an aliterate person, so the fight against aliteracy is as important as
the fight against illiteracy. I confess that I hadn't noticed this
phenomenon before I read the article. When Barbara and I
visit friends, books are always prominent in their homes, so I
assumed at least tacitly that everyone read even though I must have
known that wasn't true.
Fortunately, aliteracy is easy to fight. Some people will never
voluntarily read a book, of course, so the trick is to find potential
readers and get them to start reading for fun. And the best source of
potential readers is our children. With the pressure of NCLB and other
laws that encourage schools to teach for success on standardized tests,
our schools are teaching the wrong lesson. Students are overwhelmed
with required reading, most of which is boring and useless. Naturally
enough, many of these kids begin to think of reading as hard work with
The best way to encourage kids to become readers is to give them
books that are fun to read. The other day as I was scanning the
bookshelves in Barbara's office, looking for something to read, I
thought about Jasmine, the daughter of one of our neighbors. Jasmine is
about to turn 13 years old. She's a good kid, polite and studious.
She's interested in science. School lets out soon for the summer
vacation, so I decided to pull a few books off the shelf and give them
My first thought was to grab a bunch of Heinlein juvenile paperbacks,
but then I thought about what my friend Mary Chervenak had said about
Heinlein. I was shocked when Mary told me that she disliked Heinlein
for his sexism. I had always considered Heinlein to be one of the good
guys in that respect. Heinlein wrote strong female lead characters at a
time when few other novelists featured women in anything other than
secondary roles. But Mary had a point, and convinced me. Heinlein saw
the primary role of women as bearing and nurturing babies. While I
understand and agree with him from a purely biological perspective, I
also understood Mary's point. So I decided to look around some more.
What I came up with for Jasmine was two of the early books in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vor Saga, Shards of Honor and Barrayar.
Bujold writes strong female characters with no hint of sexism, but,
just as important, she writes books that are fun to read. Jasmine would
probably have become a pleasure reader in any case, but it never hurts
to encourage kids to learn that reading can be fun. I think she'll like
- I did another interview with John Iasiuolo on the Computer Outlook Radio Talk Show
last night. We had a good time, as usual. In fact, we had such a good
time that after the first ten minutes or so John forgot to take any
more commercial breaks, so we ended up talking uninterrupted for the
rest of the hour. If you want to listen to the show, check this page. John posts past shows in his archives, usually within a couple days of the air date.
I'm still working on chapters for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC.
Ordinarily, I'd be interleaving work, writing chapters as I actually
built and photographed the systems in question. This time, I'm
writing the narrative before I actually have the components in
hand to build the systems. I'm doing that because a lot of the stuff I
plan to use isn't actually available yet, notably Intel's new Conroe
processor and the new Socket AM2 AMD processors. It's harder to work
this way, but the upside is that when the book hits the bookstores
it'll be as current as possible and is likely to have a much longer
shelf life before it becomes obsolete. The downside, of course, is that
I may end up holding an empty bag if products are delayed long enough
that I can't make deadline. In that case, I'll be scrambling to
substitute available components for those I'm unable to obtain in time
- I've noticed a flood of articles like this one
lately, about the Feds insisting that measures be taken to allow them
to intercept VoIP telephone calls. As I read each article, I wonder
what the point is. Products like Zfone make it trivially easy to encrypt VoIP calls right now. The VoIP Security Alliance is working toward VoIP security standards that will be incorporated into router hardware and SIP phone sets.
The VoIP encryption folks aren't making the same mistakes that were
made with respect to encrypting email. VoIP encryption will be
transparent and ubiquitous. People will use it by default.
The Feds won't even have the red envelope advantage. I used to
explain one of the weaknesses of encrypted email by comparing encrypted
emails to a regular snailmail message in a red envelope. If the
overwhelming majority of mail was contained in white (unencrypted)
envelopes, the rare red envelope would be a strong indication that the
message might be of more than ordinary interest, allowing the Feds to
concentrate their decryption efforts on a very small subset of the
whole. But if VoIP encryption becomes the norm, as I expect it will,
red envelopes will become commonplace, and eventually white envelopes
will become rare.
So what's the point of these attempts to force ISPs and other
infrastructure providers to guarantee the Feds access to these
encrypted VoIP streams? Is the government stupid, or am I missing
- Fred Reed has posted an article
that shows scans of a couple pages of his step-daughter's 8th-grade
math and science books, with Fred's translations from Spanish to
Thinking back to when I was in 8th grade, in 1967, the math example
(basic probability) seems of about the difficulty level of the courses
that were taught back then to students in the average academic
track. (We had nine tracks. Those in the brightest group, Track 9, took
Algebra II and basic plane geometry in 8th grade, with more plane
geometry, as well as solid geometry and trigonometry in 9th and 10th
The science example, on the other hand, seems more difficult than our
science courses for 8th graders. We had two full years of biology
available (as well as two years of physics and three of chemistry), but
those courses did not start until 10th grade, our first year of high
school. Material of the difficulty level Fred shows would have been
considered 10th grade material.
I wonder how this material compares in difficulty to what bright American kids do in American schools today.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce